Local organization in need of volunteers to raise puppies

PRINCETON, Mass. — The local organization NEADS, formerly known as the National Education for Assistance Dog Services and Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, is in need of volunteers to be puppy raisers.

Leicester Middle School has an assistance dog for the classroom named J.D. and his handler is the Assistant Principal Beth Johnson.

Two-year-old J.D. is the big dog on campus. “Every student in our school just about has gotten to meet J.D. this year and he’s made a huge difference,” Johnson said.

J.D. is in school with Johnson every day as they see students with a lot of anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having J.D. there has been a huge help. “Asking middle school kids to socially distance from each other is a very big ask, but you don’t need to be 6-feet away from the dog. That’s one member of our school community they can have contact with and I think that really helps a lot,” Johnson said.

Before Johnson became J.D.'s handler in the summer, he lived and trained in prison with an inmate handler.

It’s part of the Prison Pup Program through the non-profit NEADS World Class Service Dogs in Princeton.

Due to COVID-19, the program has been suspended.

“So dogs who might have entered our Prison Pup Program are now needing a full-time puppy raiser and then finish on campus with either a trainer on our campus or when the Prison Pup Program opens,” said Katy Harrison Ostroff, manager of client services at NEADS.

J.D. now lives with Johnson and will eventually retire with her when his working days are done.

NEADS is in need of volunteers for its puppy raiser program to help raise future service dogs.

They would help socialize the pups for the first 12 to 14 months of their lives before they finish their formal training in a prison.

If you are interested in becoming a puppy raiser for the organization you can apply here.